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S. Lewis Johnson and Genesis: The Joseph Section

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

In my Genesis study (S. Lewis Johnson series) I’m up to Genesis 41 and the great story of Joseph’s life and rise to power in Egypt.  I look forward to completing the series, and starting the next MP3 CD, already queued up, with SLJ’s Exodus Wilderness Wanderings, Typology in Leviticus, and various topical studies of OT characters such as Gideon, Samson, David and Elijah.  I’m preparing a third MP3 CD with SLJ’s 40-message series “Lessons from the Life of David,” plus other messages to fill up a CD–his series on God’s plan for the Jews (mainly from Zechariah), plus a few of his miscellaneous messages from various Psalms.

The Joseph section of Genesis brings out some really great Bible truths concerning God’s purposes and His providence.  In SLJ’s teaching through Genesis 37, it was nice to hear his references to the prophetic aspects.  He mentioned the connection between Joseph’s dream and the interpretation of the woman in Revelation 12.  Later in that same message, he described Joseph as a type of Christ, in that both were rejected and yet later delivered their people.  S. Lewis Johnson here noted Jesus Christ’s future deliverance of His people Israel, to bring them to repentance so that “they will look on Him whom they have pierced.”  A few chapters later, Genesis 40 shows God’s amazing providence, and that God truly is interested in the “little things”–not just the big events.  After all, the whole chain of events that leads to Joseph’s exaltation in Egypt, began with a small incident:  Joseph noticing the sad looks upon the faces of the two Egyptian officials in the jail.  For really there are no such differences between “big” and “small” events, in God’s view.  The big events really come about from a series of small events, and God orchestrates those events all the way through to their end.

In Genesis 41, S. Lewis Johnson again parallels the life experiences of Joseph with Jesus Christ, mentioning some of the same parallels (from his Genesis 37 message), but adding a few more:  Joseph gets a gentile bride, the Egyptian Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.  Here SLJ notes the parallel:  a Gentile bride for Joseph, and a Gentile bride for Jesus Christ:

And it is interesting too that while Joseph was in Egypt as the exalted Prime Minister, he obtained  a Gentile bride.  I don’t want to make too much of this, but you will remember that the church of Jesus Christ today is primarily a Gentile bride.  Now the church of Jesus Christ today arose out of the Jewish people who were on the day of Pentecost, it was first of all Jewish in its character and has always had Jewish people in it down through the centuries.  There is a [indistinct] that according to the election of grace forming part of the church of Jesus Christ all through the ages.   But this is the  time  of the fullness of the  Gentiles and  when the time of the fullness of the Gentiles comes to an end the Apostle Paul says then all Israel shall be seen.  Our Lord Jesus acquiring a  Gentile bride in the present day is very close to that which Joseph did in illustration in his day.

I’m also going through a Matthew study, from John MacArthur’s sermons (preached from 1978 -1984), in Matthew 3 currently.  As much as I have come to enjoy MacArthur, I now often feel that I learn more from S. Lewis Johnson.  Perhaps it is the subject matter:  Genesis is less familiar, in terms of sermon material, whereas Matthew is a more familiar book.  I enjoyed MacArthur’s Revelation series (from the early to mid 1990s), and there too the subject matter was less familiar.  Also, MacArthur’s delivery improved over the years; in these early Matthew messages he really did talk pretty fast, especially in rattling off all the “five Cs” of the John the Baptist section in Matthew 3 — and with more variation in his speech (volume).  But after completing Matthew 3, I plan to start listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Acts series.

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Various Bible Thoughts

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m a bit restless in my spirit today.  Perhaps too much focus on the Bible, and added time on Bible Prophecy websites and message boards, can lead to some burnout — or impatience.  It seems that so much is happening in the world, all the events associated with Israel and the Middle East and the decline of America, that surely Jesus’ return must come soon.  Along with this I find less and less interest in the things of this world, just wanting to be “outta here,” with the Lord in glory at the Rapture.  So every day is exciting — to see anew how God’s word in unfolding in actual history — and yet the suspense continues; and meanwhile life just keeps on going by at its normal pace, with most people unconcerned and consumed by the trivial things of life.  I keep hearing about harder times to come upon America, and yet personally we have not experienced anything unusual, at least not yet.

The more I read my 12-list daily readings, the more and more obvious the Bible is concerning Israel–God’s great concern for Israel throughout all time, and God’s great future plans for national Israel.  My mind–finally uncluttered from the brainwashing drivel of the local pastor, that had trained my mind to think in past, historical terms only–now sees what the texts state in their normative, plain meaning.  Now that I’m on my second or even third readings through the Bible, since March (day 223), the passages are becoming that much more familiar.  Here is a sampling from recent readings:

Romans 11:28-29:  As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
Romans 15:8-9:  For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:
Hebrews 9:28 — so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Nehemiah 9 tells us that the people (now returned to the land) were slaves within it; that return simply doesn’t do justice, to “fulfill” the prophetic texts that speak of a great restoration.

The OT prophets, especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel are filled with the theme of Israel’s judgement followed by later restoration.  Ezekiel 36 and especially Ezekiel 37 are so obvious — no wonder the local preterist pastor ignored so much of Ezekiel 37; the plain meaning is clear.  I’m now up to Ezekiel 41 in my list 11 readings, and the chronology of events and meaning of Israel, from Ezekiel 36 to this point is unmistakeable.

John MacArthur said it well in his 2007 Shepherd’s Conference message.  The following is quoted at Dr. Tim White’s blog:

Now all that leads us to this: if you get Israel right you will get eschatology right. If you don’t get Israel right you will never get eschatology right. Never. And you’ll migrate from one view to another just depending on the last book you read or the last lecture you heard . . . . If you get eschatology right it’s because you get Israel right. You get Israel right when you get the Old Testament covenants and promises right. You get the Old Testament covenants and promises right when you get the interpretation of Scripture right. You get interpretation of Scripture right when you’re faithful to a legitimate hermeneutic and God’s integrity is upheld. Get your hermeneutics right, you’ll get the Old Testament promises right. Get promises right, you’ll get Israel right. Get Israel right, you’ll get eschatology right. The Bible calls God the God of Israel over 200 times. The God of Israel. There are over 2,000 references to Israel in Scripture, not one of them means anything but Israel. Not one of them, including Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16 which is the only two passages that amillennialists go to trying to convince us that that cancels out the other 2,000. There is no difficulty in interpreting those as simply meaning Jews who were believers; the Israel of God. Israel always means Israel, never means anything but Israel. Seventy three New Testament uses of Israel always mean Israel.

Through some googling for Bible resources, I came across a good reference website:  Precept Austin.  This site upholds the conservative evangelical, premillennial, literal hermeneutic standard, and has links, by Bible book, to many online resources, such as commentaries and sermons.  As the author notes, he does include links to the older, covenant theology commentaries such as Matthew Henry and John Gill.  Yet he notes the caution to use with these, as especially concerning prophetic texts where they spiritualize and apply the texts to the New Testament Church.  But the majority of the links provided are to trustworthy teachers.  The MP3 sermons from Believers Chapel (S. Lewis Johnson and Dan Duncan) are listed, as well as the text and/or audio from many other preachers.  Here I learned a few more names of good Bible teachers, to possibly consider for further study:  W.A. Criswell, Ray Stedman and Thomas Constable.

As I’ve learned recently, I’ll never run out of good Bible teachers and teachings.  The vast amount of good Bible study material now available on the Internet, from many different churches and ministries, is just amazing.  Yes, the Internet also hosts a lot of bad teaching, but also much good teaching.  Among the trustworthy names on my list now (though haven’t listened to everything from all of these names):  John MacArthur, S. Lewis Johnson, Dan Duncan, Bruce Blakey, Steve Lawson, Lance Quinn, Erwin Lutzer, David Jeremiah, W. A. Criswell, Ray Stedman, and Thomas Constable.  Add to that the writings of 19th century preachers C. H. Spurgeon and J. C. Ryle.

Studying Genesis, Chapters 32 – 35

October 15, 2009 Leave a comment

In my journey with S. Lewis Johnson and his Genesis series, we’ve been going through the years of Jacob and his family. Today I completed his message about Genesis 34. This has been an interesting journey, in which I’ve learned many details and insights — though not surprising, considering that I really hadn’t heard much preaching through the book of Genesis. Like most believers, I’ve heard the occasional sermons on Genesis 22 (Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac at Mt. Moriah) and Genesis 24 (the servant getting a wife, Rebekah, for Isaac), but little else from Genesis. S. Lewis Johnson even remarked, around Genesis 30 I think, that one of the commentators he read had even said that preachers should not bother to preach from these chapters. Obviously S. Lewis Johnson disagreed, as he continued, chapter by chapter, through the rest of Genesis.

The biggest lesson that comes through in these chapters is the danger of worldliness. Jacob is one of the patriarchs, yet he falls short of the great standard of Abraham and behaves with very human-focused concerns, for many years of his life. Unlike many other Bible characters (Abram, Simon Peter, Saul of Tarsus), when Jacob is given a new name (Israel), he still is often called “Jacob” after that point. Even after his great spiritual high point in Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with God, he degenerates quickly, starting in the very next chapter.

I had never really understood some of what was going on in Genesis 33 and 34. One pastor (the untrustworthy one) has often commented in a positive way on the great wisdom of Jacob in sending forth all the droves of animals to Esau, to placate Esau so that Esau would receive him, suggesting that the gifts had worked to bring about the reconciliation at that meeting. Yet I sensed there was more to it than that, and that several things in the narrative don’t agree with such a simple and positive interpretation of what’s going on there. S. Lewis Johnson confirms this, with his observation that Jacob did not need to bow down low as in homage to Esau, as though Esau was above himself. Such actions show instead that Jacob feared Esau more than he trusted God. God, of course, was the one that had worked in advance to change Esau’s heart and protect Jacob, long before Jacob sent those gifts to Esau. In the previous chapters dealing with Esau and Jacob, SLJ commented on Esau’s easy-going nature — the kind of guy that’s easy to get along with and that we (as people, generally) would probably prefer for a friend or neighbor. Genesis 33 certainly shows Esau’s unconcerned, easy-going nature. Also of note is the description of Esau running toward Jacob and embracing him — a description also found in the story of the prodigal son, where the father runs toward his son.

The next part of Genesis 33 is especially revealing, showing that Jacob again resorted to trickery and deceit, thus damaging his own witness for God, when he agreed to later catch up with Esau in Seir yet he had no intention of going there. S. Lewis Johnson notes that Seir was to the Southeast, and Succoth and Shechem were to the Northwest. Further, Genesis 33:17-18 notes that Jacob built himself a house at Succoth, and that later he pitched his camp “within the site of the city” (Shechem). The patriarchs were noted for dwellling in tents, as part of their lifestyle, and yet here Jacob is building himself a house. The next part about camping near Shechem brings to mind the similar experience of Lot setting up his residence near Sodom. Furthermore, S. Lewis Johnson points out, Jacob had forgotten his original vow to the Lord (in Genesis 28:20): “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” Jacob should have gone to Bethel, not to Succoth or Shechem.

Genesis 34 and its evil and tragic events confirms that Jacob’s actions were wrong. Jacob should never have placed his family there to begin with. SLJ notes, too, that Jacob must have settled in Shechem for a while, since according to the overall chronology, in chapter 33 Dinah was a little girl of about 5 to 7 years. In Genesis 34 she is several years older, probably age 13 to 15. (I wonder how that chronology is worked out of the text, as to the precise ages of Jacob’s children. SLJ does not elaborate, though this information and explanation must be in some commentaries.) Jacob’s response to his two violent sons Simeon and Levi, afterwards, is all about Jacob and Jacob’s concerns, with no indication of remorse on Jacob’s part. In SLJ’s words:

Jacob has not recovered yet. Did you notice the first person? He said, “you have brought trouble on me.” He said, “My men are few in number. They will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.” He does not say anything about the sin of camping near the city of Shechem. He does not say anything about the fact that I am to blame perhaps for what has happened. He has no repentance so far as we can tell. No regret. No remorse for what has happened. He has no sense even of God’s promises to him and how this action is a contradiction of that, but on the contrary, the only thing he can speak about is Jacob. Jacob whose name has now become Israel, God’s fighter, is living like Jacob again. No sense of the divine blessing and the divine calling.

S. Lewis Johnson has this to say concerning the doctrine of worldliness:

It is not so easy to define worldliness as we often think. The result is that the concept of unworldliness is often ridiculed and we find ourselves sometimes a little speechless in defending the doctrine of worldliness. Worldliness is often equated with narrowness of mind, straight-lacedness, a critical legalistic bent of mind. Those that think that the concept is a scriptural concept often refer to caustically as bitter people, even as ugly people, self-righteous people, and in the media, often they are pictured as mean — in fact the word mean is often used. In kindlier notes by the believers, they are put down as out of touch with the realities of the world.

Yet the Apostles speak of worldliness. There is such a thing as worldliness. The Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 12 and verse 1 and verse 2, after expounding the mercies of God, says, “I urge you Therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world.” So the apostle does know that there is such a thing as a doctrine of worldliness.

… You can see it in individual Christian lives, individuals who were converted were full of vim and vigor spiritually in the early days of their Christian life. To use Paul’s words in the Epistle to the Galatians, they have run well but something has hindered them, and in the meantime, they have become dull and dead and criticize others who are too narrow minded, straight-laced and all of the words used to describe the kind of life that is not very comfortable for them. The worldliness may be difficult to define, but it is rather easy to feel and see and I mean feel in the sense of to understand when it is there. It is an atmosphere. It is a kind of an enervating, poisoning, luring, and deadening atmosphere in which churches often fall.

This description encourages me, to know I’m not alone in the struggle against even professing Christians who would tell me I’m out of touch with the world, “square” or call me “bitter” or self-righteous in my unworldly attitudes (such as my distaste of certain secular, anti-Christian and worldly songs–not all secular music, but certain songs are very offensive), or for taking a strong stand on what scripture says — as for example, the importance of the truth of Genesis 1, my insistence that if someone rejects the truth at the first chapter, how can they be trusted regarding other Biblical teachings?

Genesis 35 finally brings Jacob full-circle back to Bethel. The Lord tells Jacob to go to Bethel, reminding him of that vow he had made years ago. God also puts fear of Jacob’s group into the hearts of all the people in the land — another case of God’s protection, coming just after Simeon and Levi massacred and looted the village of Shechem. Jacob had been side-tracked for several years during which he was back in the land, but dwelling in Succoth and Shechem rather than in Bethel. This chapter also indicates yet again the pagan idolatry in his household, in verses 2 through 4 where they bury the pagan objects under a tree near Shechem. Now Jacob is restored, yet to mature he must experience sorrow, which comes later in the chapter with Rachel’s death.

Great Bible Teachings, from Recent Bible Readings

October 5, 2009 Leave a comment

More spiritual food for thought, from recent Bible reading in my 12-list modified Horner Bible Reading Plan:

Isaiah 56:6-7 contains a promise to foreigners (Gentiles) who join themselves to the Lord

Great verses to remember:

Hebrews 3:13 – But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 5:14 — But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Titus 1:5 — This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you- if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.

This simple verse is a great one to counter the hyper-Calvinist error too prevalent in some churches. To those who say that “only God can save our children,” and “we can’t manipulate God or obligate him to save our children” with an attitude of passivity and fate, this verse shows the human responsibility within families, and the expectation that believers will indeed have believing children. Here I consider that the error comes from a weak understanding of God’s word, and a flawed understanding of God’s character. After all, such passivity from this hyper-Calvinist error suggests the idea that God is really mean-spirited, for, in spite of all our best efforts to teach and train our children, God is somehow stingy in His applicatin of divine grace and therefore He won’t save our children. Yet if this concept of God were so, then no men would qualify to be elders and therefore we would have no church leaders. Yet Paul in his instructions to Titus here assumes that such men exist and that their children are believers. Could it be instead that such hyper-Calvinists really haven’t done their best at teaching and training their children, and thus use this as an excuse for their own failures?

Isaiah 63:11 — The Holy Spirit active in the Old Testament era

Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name,

Ezekiel 16:62-63 — A New Covenant promise

I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.

These verses come at the end of a long chapter describing the terrible history of Israel’s idolatry and apostasy. The clear context and meaning is that the New Covenant will be made with the same people, this terribly unfaithful and idolatrous group of people. To say that Israel lost the blessing and only the church has it would make no sense in the context, since the church was never some unfaithful and idolatrous people of God to begin with. Some here would say that this New Covenant, as described in Ezekiel, applies to the remnant of Jewish believers, those of the Church Age who believe along with Gentiles. But the full chapter of Ezekiel 16 surely must mean something more, something greater than just that, especially since the Church Age has experienced relatively few Jewish believers.

Horner Bible Reading Plan, Day 201

October 5, 2009 Leave a comment

This Bible reading plan is great, a focused reading plan that also serves as a type of bible study, especially in the short notes I make as I’m reading. This 12-list plan has become an important part of the daily routine, so that I consider each day incomplete without this time of Bible reading. Consequently I rarely miss a day, though on weekends I often read late in the afternoon. Now to some observations from recent readings (days 189 through 201):

The Old Testament sacrifices never could save; it was always by faith in God:

Something I’ve realized for quite a while, especially when it comes to understanding the future and Ezekiel’s temple. Here are a few scripture verses from recent readings:

Galatians 2:15-16 — We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Psalm 51:16 — For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

Proverbs 15:8 — The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

Isaiah 66:3 — He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations

References to the future state, and/or the land of Israel:

Isaiah 60:19-21 speaks of the eternal state, where the Lord himself is the everlasting light; and the righteous will possess the land forever.

The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever.

Proverbs 10:30 — The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.

Psalm 37:9 — For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

Prophecy Parallels

Ezekiel 9:2, a man clothed in linen … this brings to mind the similar description of a man in linen, in Daniel’s prophecy; my Bible Software program, The Word, also showed the exact reference: Daniel 10:5

Ezekiel 9 and Revelation 7 both show a number of saved people being specially marked or sealed.

In both cases the text is very Jewish, with reference to the people of Israel. Revelation 7 even names 12 tribes.

Places and Events in Israel’s History

1 Samuel 13:2 mentions Bethel. I also heard this name mentioned in my morning Genesis study (S. Lewis Johnson series), from Genesis 28, where Jacob named the place Bethel.

2 Chronicles 32:5 and 1 Samuel 13 both tell of battle situations, but what a contrast: a victorious Israel in 2 Chronicles, as opposed to 1 Samuel 13, a situation so dire that the Israelites had no weapons because only the Philistines had blacksmiths.

General agricultural understanding  (for a city person with little knowledge)

From repeated readings through Proverbs and Old Testament history, I now know that snow is a good thing at harvest time, but rain is not.

Proverbs 25:13 — Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.

1 Samuel 12:17: Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king.

Proverbs 26:1 — Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.

Other Observations

1 Samuel 7:2, last phrase says “and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.”

Similar verse: Genesis 4:26 ends with “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

1 Samuel 13:1 shows interesting translation differences. The NIV, which I’ve read for many years, tells us that Saul was 30 when he began to reign, and reigned 42 years. The ESV translation completely omits the actual numbers. The KJV gives totally different numbers.

Proverbs 15:28, first part: The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,”

This verse reminds me of Daniel 4, an example of this trait, where Daniel’s first words to Nebuchadnezzar show hesitancy about how to answer Nebuchadnezzar’s dream interpretatin. Daniel begins by telling Nebuchadnezzar that he wishes that the dream and its interpretation applied to the king’s enemies.

Going through Genesis with S. Lewis Johnson

October 2, 2009 Leave a comment

My morning sermon series through Genesis continues, now reaching Genesis 29 and the story of Jacob, and this has been an enjoyable and educational time, learning more of God’s word in the Genesis stories.  Now for a few highlights from the last several chapters:

Genesis 21 is the weaning of Abraham.  Yes, that’s right — not just the weaning of Isaac, but the weaning of Abraham from trusting in his own strength.  Up till this time, Abraham has been relying on himself in various ways:  his older son Ishmael, and even his long pact with Sarah to say, wherever they travel, that they are brother and sister.  Genesis 20 showed the last of these incidents where Abraham lied to unbelievers regarding his wife.  S. Lewis Johnson points out that, based on Abraham’s statement in Genesis 20:13, he likely had lied many times about this, not just the two times recorded for us.  So in Genesis 21, after Abraham has been found out in this lie, he now must give up Ishmael, thus setting the stage for Genesis 22 in which God tells Abraham to give up “your only son, Isaac.”

Genesis 22 brought up a brief discussion of the “law of first mention,” a theological term new to me.  Genesis 22 is the first mention in the Bible of a test.  There are many other “firsts” pointed out by S. Lewis Johnson.

Genesis 23 tells us Sarah’s death and her age at death.  I had never really thought about it, but SLJ here noted that Sarah is the only woman in the Bible for whom we know her age at death.  Interesting.   As SLJ further notes, Sarah is a special example for godly women; he references 1 Peter 3, the command for women to be godly and submissive to their husbands, like Sarah.

Genesis 23 also shows us that it’s okay to grieve for our departed, that it’s normal to cry at their death, even if they have gone to be with the Lord.  SLJ has no use for the stoical, phony happy people at funerals.  Here I am personally reminded of this difference in the case of my grandmother, who was a big church-going Southern Baptist but who always smiled and acted happy at funerals.  I heard that she did that because of rejoicing that the person was now in heaven, but in certain such funerals I wonder if the deceased was indeed with God.  But Genesis 23 gives us a biblical model of Abraham, and even he experienced the true emotions of grief and sorrow in this loss of Sarah.

An interesting note regarding Genesis 25:17 —

Altogether, Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people.

Here S. Lewis Johnson notes the phrase “and he was gathered to his people,” a phrase also used to describe the death of Abraham.  He suggests that Ishmael could very well have been saved.  Though he was not the one through whom the covenant promise would come, yet Ishmael could very well have been a believer.  SLJ further notes that the situation with Esau is quite different, but Ishmael’s death suggests that Ishmael believed the faith of Abraham.  Here I looked at the texts a little further, and found that the same phrase is later used to describe Isaac’s death in Genesis 35:29.  I looked for a description of the death of Esau, but interestingly the Bible never even mentions Esau’s death, much less his age at death or how he died.  Then, in my Horner Bible Reading Plan list 2 reading for today, I noted the following concerning Ishmael in Genesis 21:20 — “God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.”  The phrase “God was with the boy as he grew up” also supports SLJ’s view.

And lastly, concerning Genesis 28:6-9, the description of Esau going to Ishmael to get another wife.  I had always just thought of this as Esau’s further rebellion, into increasing polygamy to get another wife after Jacob was sent away.  But S. Lewis Johnson sees this as an attempt, and a feeble one at that, of Esau to somehow gain the favor of his parents by marrying from his relatives.  My long-time NIV Study Bible doesn’t comment either way on it, but I checked my new MacArthur Bible Commentary, and sure enough MacArthur makes the same observation here.

Here I’ve been a Christian for many years, and generally know my Bible from regularly reading it through once a year (until recently, now multiple readings per year).  Yet until recently I had never done any in-depth Bible Study, and so I find that I’m learning even more new and interesting things.  Another great thing is that I’ve only just started with my “new teacher” S. Lewis Johnson:  there are literally hundreds or thousands more such Bible lessons to go through in the S. Lewis Johnson collection.

The Inconsistency of Church Replacement Theology

October 2, 2009 Leave a comment

The inconsistency of Christians who hold to non-literal interpretation of the Bible continues to amaze me. I previously wrote of the inconsistency of partial-preterists regarding past and future. Now I look at the attitude toward Israel as a unique nation and people. The classic Reformed, Church Replacement group are blind to the significance of what is going on in the world today, and see no connection between the actual world and what the Bible has to say on the subject, as they insist that Israel has no significance. For example, when I pointed out to such an individual that the nation of Israel is different from other nations in history, that person quickly responded that Israel only had significance before Christ, in the Old Testament. I pointed out Romans 11 as a scriptural basis, but the person ridiculed that as something only believed by “goofballs.” I could have pointed out that this is the view of premillennialists such as Fred Zaspel (a name he knows) and Spurgeon (not just goofballs), and that even some amillennialists believe in the future national conversion of a generation of Israelites–but this was just before going in to work one morning, not the time for lengthy discussion.

As I’ve later considered the matter, the overall inconsistency here is striking. If Israel has no historical significance since the time of Christ, then why continue to believe and say (as these Church Replacement advocates insist) that the Holocaust was God’s judgement on Jews, one of the curses for their rejection of the Messiah? After all, if Israel really has no significance and all is now in Christ and the Church Age, then why should God bother to continue His curses on the Jews throughout the last 2,000 years? By such reasoning, surely the modern-day descendants of Jews should not be experiencing punishment for the sins of their fathers. Church-only advocates know well the Bible teaching, that each man is punished for his own sins, not for those of his fathers. Of course, Church Replacement advocates have to come up with an “explanation” to “fit” their theory, as to why such things have happened. But because (in their minds) Israel has no historical significance, the only reason they come up with is that the Jews get all the curses and the Church gets all the blessings.

As I learned from the study of origins and creation, often the truthfulness of a given theory can be tested by how well it lines up with the observed data. If Church Replacement theology were true, we should expect to find a world in which Jews as a people group no longer existed, having been long since assimilated into their surrounding cultures. Such has happened to all other ethnic groups at some point in time. Where are the Armenians since their destruction in the early 20th century? Where are the Etruscans? Modern-day demographers see a near-future demise of Europeans as an ethnic group, due to low birth-rates in many European countries. In a world of Church Replacement, we would not see a world in which Jews were hated and persecuted by the Catholic Crusaders of the 11th century, or Jews blamed for the Black Death in the 14th — much less a world in which Jews in the 20th century were (by miraculous providence) re-established in their homeland. If Church Replacement theology were true, we should instead see a world that has its focus (in terms of international events and general politics) shifting to the different areas of the world where the Church dominates: Europe, then America, even Africa and Asia. Certainly for much of history the focus did remain on these Gentile nations, which reflects the fact of the biblical “times of the Gentiles.” But since at least the middle of the 20th century the international scene has returned to the Middle East instead of continuing its focus exclusively in the Gentile Church world.

A premillennial, moderate dispensational understanding has no problems of inconsistency, and this view happens to fit the facts of our real world history. The Church did not replace Israel, and God still has a future purpose for ethnic Israel. This is the best and simplest answer to the question of why the Jews are still around today. They have been experiencing the curses for the rejection of their Messiah, but they (the same group) will also experience the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant at a future time, when God gives them a new heart, an Ezekiel 36 regeneration so that they recognize Jesus as their Messiah. The premillennialist can also understand another reason for the intense persecution of Jews throughout history: Satan knows that God has a future purpose that involves the Jews, so if Satan can destroy that group he can make God a liar, to render God ineffective. After all, if the Jews can be destroyed, how could God fulfill those future promises to a people that no longer existed? God permits Satan to persecute the Jews (as He permitted Satan to persecute Job) yet keeps a limit on how much Satan can actually do.

Another real-world proof of futuristic premillennialism: take a look at the eschatological belief system of the Muslims, in connection with their Mahdi Messiah. This too has made headlines recently, with many Christians concluding that the Mahdi may well be the actual anti-Christ. I’m not knowledgeable enough to answer to the truthfulness of that claim, but it is interesting to note that the 7th century Muslims evidently understood biblical eschatology far better than the Christians (of that time as well as today). The Muslim prophetic writings are clearly an imitation, a perverted imitation to be sure, but clearly an imitation of the literal, premillennial teaching of the Bible. If Satan and his demons, the inspiration behind Islam as with every false religion, instead recognized the Augustinian, amillennial interpretation of the Bible, then why not imitate and twist that idea instead? Satan and his demons do believe in God, as James tells us, and if the demons knew that God had rejected Israel and now only focused on the Church, why such Satanic intent (continual and unsuccessful) to destroy ethnic Israel?